Posts Tagged ‘Social Media’

Our Christmas Menu – Courtesy of Social Media Site Pinterest

The brief piece we did at Thanksgiving “Our Menu for Turkey Day, and a Great Visual Site – Pi

nterest” was actually quite popular, so we thought we’d do similar for our meal today.

Pinterest holds viagra china a lot of potential as a social media site. Don’t let the fact that you have

to request an account deter you – one comes fairly quickly.Pinterest Logo

 

You must also take the time to add buttons to your browser to ‘pin’ things, but the Pinterest site has good help. Simply go to the ‘About’ pulldown option on their website and click ‘Pin it
Button.
iPhone and iPad pinning can also be done, but is a bit trickier. Pinterest has a good article here on how to.

Crown Roast

The Meal


This time, rather than cut and paste all the pictures from Pinterest, I am going to let you use the platform and click the link:

http://pinterest.com/sonomawilliam/christmas-dinner/

This link brings you to the ‘board’ I have created, where I re ‘pinned’ things from Michelle, who put a variety of ideas on her board for me to choose from.

You can then click on each picture and pin it to your own board. You may also launch to the original source website and find the recipe.

Viral food porn and crowd sourcing all in one!

 

 

Now, back to Christmas. Warm wishes from Simple Hedonism, thanks for following us over the years. Cheers!

 

4th of July Weekend Marks Two Year Anniversary for 'Sonoma William' – and Brings More Changes, Evolutions & Decisions

It's snuck up on me again, perhaps because (as many echo to me) it is sometimes hard to imagine I have only been here two years. In many ways I feel like was always here.

Two Years Ago – The Long Overdue Journey Begins

I knew in my heart and soul, over 12 years ago this is where I would live: The result of  working for a Petaluma startup and discovering Sonoma County's Russian River Valley. However being (at that time) in my early 30s's,  and single, I was in denial a rural, agrarian county was the place for me, and instead lived in San Francisco and Marin, but sojourning regularly into Sonoma for work and play. Russian River Valley (I fell in love with Pinot, my 'first girl') and often Dry Creek Valley, became monthly visits.

Flash forward to 2009; after leaving the Bay area and brief stints in Seattle, Denver, and Baja Mexico, I returned to California in 2007 and was working in Silicon Valley.

A rapid series of life & work  events landed me here in North Sonoma, newly single, on paid 6 months off, really not knowing anyone, and keen to dive, at least partially,  into the wine industry. After much urging by friends, I also decided it was time to start a wine website and blog on it. I was fairly new to Facebook, not even on Twitter, but realized, with my background in marketing & technology, that these Social Media tools really could provide some social integration and networking, as well as establishing the brand of 'Sonoma William.' Today the blog Facebook page has 2400 followers, and Twitter, 4000.

Which incidentally I get push back on occasion as a wine writer. I write, travel, and review all wines and AVAs. Sonoma County is where  I live and love, not my wine focus, per se. Although she holds a special place in my heart, and where above all other places, I choose to live.

I wasn't alone – we had other new entities like Hardy Wallace and Rick Bakas, all of us only a brief span apart. move into wine country. The differentiator for myself being I was completely independent and self funded. (Not that I wouldn't want a large or progressive thinking, funded, winery at my back!)

It wasn't long before I heard regularly – 'you are everywhere!'

Diving In

Things coalesced: I finished the blog site,  self designed and hosted;  I was fortunate enough to have good  local Industry backing, especially of the North Sonoma Wine Road, and then it spread to organizations like Hospice du Rhone,  and momentum just grew. More of my background and first adventures can be found in my post: ‘Sonoma William’ Joins Forces With the Rhone Rangers; Some History & New Directions. I jumped into 2009 harvest. I covered events and just waded in head first.

Alas, my 6 month 'sabbatical' ended prematurely and I had to stop mid harvest and begin the struggle of trying to balance time between two very distinct worlds.

Now, two years later much has evolved, personally and professionally, but one thing  is certain – being involved in the wine industry was my calling – but on what path?

More Changes and Several Paths To Choose From Ahead

  • New Life Changes

Two years later, a touch ironically, I am amidst another series of life changes.

Until last month, I have been head of sales for a small, VC funded,  software company, which by its nature brings volatility, especially when you are subject to the whims of Venture Capitalists, and in turbulent times. Despite the fact I helped the company grow and 2011 was on target to meet or exceed another 25+ percent growth year, a never ending series of  changes and  re-orgs, my role was eliminated. Without the big corporate severance package this time.

It was clear this was an opportunity to assess and decide – is this the time to jump full time into the wine industry? I have had offers before (and now) – but the issue has always been a huge decrease in income, at a time with a new farm, small vineyard, and other projects where capital is needed…can I afford to? We shall see, for right now I am pursuing other avenues and interests, hopefully through Harvest 2011.

Additionally, a bit  unexpected, I am in a relationship with someone, also in (and new to)  the wine industry. After many years of focusing on everything but my own life, I am investing substantial hours per week in building and growing this relationship, and spending time with a person who completes my life in many ways. My 'usual' line of work involves heavy travel 2-3 days a week, every week, and has always made relationships a challenge, so I am welcoming the quality time getting to know a dear person I both greatly respect and whom I think the world of.  Life is short, time is precious. It's time to live, love and practice what I preach about enjoying life's primary pleasures.

  • Wine Marketing Consulting

Over the last year, I had been doing some side consulting for marketing and social media integration to several clients, mostly in conjunction with wine Public Relations veteran Marie Gewirtz of MGPR, and occasionally independently. Given recent changes, I am now open to new clients, and have recently closed several with more request

opens for proposals. These can range from a Social Media only focus, helping launch Facebook, Twitter, building a following, integrating key applications like Cruvee and Google Analytics for measurement, training, and handing over the keys to the castle over some months, to campaign and event consulting, or a full blown soup to nuts Marketing , Public Relations, and Social Media campaign combining the resources and and experience of MGPR, and others who work with us.

I need to build an 'accolades' page, as we have already accomplished some great things, and I have also launched several projects including the new Santa Rosa Wine Trail. I also teach seminars for Wine Organizations, teach at Sonoma State University, guest lecture at Santa Rosa Junior college, and have presented at winery's national meetings. Work has never been this much fun, or fulfilling, until now.

  • Starting My Own Wine Label

In the background I have been working to create my own small brand, focusing on Rhone blends, producing 7 barrels of Rhone varietals (175 cases) and am going through all the fun paperwork. (Especially daunting has been the name creation.) I have had help and coaching from many people, ranging from Rhone icon Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon (whom I feel guilty to even contact) to the guidance of local winemakers Darek Trowbridge (and Steven Washuta) (Old World Winery), Alan Baker (Cartograph), Dylan & Tobe Sheldon (Sheldon Wines) & Kevin Hamel, veteran Sonoma wine maker and consultant. Busy with their own small artisan wine brands (all personal favorites) , these people have been kind enough to mentor me.

The ultimate size of this label? Remains to be seen… I think this is my long term future…but is that five years out? Ten? It's still TBD as I let it happen somewhat organically. Joining with a life partner, investment partner who is also a passionate wine aficionado could accelerate this. My experience with Venture Capitalists makes me reluctant to  create a business plan and raise outside investors who aren't hands on involved, and like minded.

  • Wine Writing, Press Tours, and Wine Judging

At the same time, my following and reputation as a wine writer seems to have really accelerated. Readership is high, for a niche wine website. Requests for media coverage and event press passes flow in. I am having to decline some wine samples, based on backlog, capacity,  and really wish I again had active wine writers again for events and reviews.

A new twist  has emerged that I am excited about – wine judging. In early August I will be a judge in the Mendocino County Wine Competition. In September I am judging the Sonoma County Harvest Fair, our biggest competition. And in November I am judging in a brand new competition called the Garagiste Festival.

Additional requests for press and media tours continue. I recently have been spending time exploring Mendocino County with a press tour and Paul Dolan biodynamic writers camp. In July I am one of six writers selected on a all expense paid week media tour in Spain, sponsored by Freixnet, and visiting properties and wineries

of the 22 brands, including Ribera and Rioja. Wine writing doesn't pay, but it has its perks!

  • Stepping into the Rhone Rangers Board of Directors, and Starting the North Coast Chapter

Life has been so busy, I haven't even had time to craft a press release about our record Rhone Rangers San Francisco Grand event, nor my appointment to the Board of Directors last month.

Additionally, I am also spearheading the new North Coast Rhone Rangers chapter, in the footsteps of the successful Paso Robles chapter. Our initial goal is a map of Rhone producers with an electronic map for Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, and Lake Counties. More on this in a separate article, but if you are a winery that fits this or can recommend one, please contact me ASAP. I love working with wineries, but if you have ever done any cross winery work, you know its cat herding at its finest!

Where Does It All Lead?

The above items are by far a complete list; add in the monthly social events  host for 100+ people, the live tastings I do, and much more, life is very full! But where does this lead? I often get asked where is my 'master plan'?

Atypical for me, I don't have one. I see multiple possible paths in front of me, and I am letting them play out, somewhat organically, or naturally. Water follows its own path, and in this case, I think my life will as well.

I can't wait to see what the 2012 Third year anniversary summary brings! Cheers!

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Seeing California Chardonnay in a New Light: #Chardonnay Day Greenhouse Tasting, Attendees Top Picks. Up Next – Aug 18 Pinot Day

May 26th was international #Chardonnay day, organized by wine social media entity  Rick Bakas. I am a believer in the varietal focused Live tastings, so to support of this, I held a private tasting of selected, 12 distinct producers, showcasing a variety of regions.

The Impact of Social Media Twitter Tastings

Rick did an excellent job covering the results in his article recap. Some highlights:

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  • Reach was over 4 million people.
  • 29 MILLION impressions
  • 12,000 related tweets

So…as a chardonnay producer, why didn’t you take part?

Combating Chardonnay Backlash

As this event drew near, I was observing some murmurs of backlash. One wine writer/blogger whom I respect and consider more knowledgeable than myself, reacted on Twitter by saying “celebrating Chardonnay day was like celebrating McDonalds.” Wow, jaw dropping, how did we get here? Even if you took the opinion that California produces no good chardonnay (somehow out of the thousands of Vintners)….you are writing off this varietal and all of the amazing French, widely varying styles? The Grand Cru white Burgundies? Steely, minerally Chablis? Really?

If there is one thing I stand for as a wine writer, its pursuit of assisting others in their wine education by exposure, and ending some of the inane myths. Calfornia chardonnay has come a long way, as highlighted by Chronicle wine writer Jon Bonne’ in Chardonnay regains respect – now to maintain it.

It’s slightly ironic – a wine writer & evaluator who often expresses support for lesser known varietals, rushing to the aid of Chardonnay? The ‘Rhonehound’ himself battling against the ABC (anything but chardonnay) crowd? The United States Number One white varietal hardly needs my help, right? Don’t get me wrong, I can’t stand vineyards in Europe have ripped out traditional unique varieties to plant this chardonnay.  I scratch my head at very hot regions growing chardonnay, when the vineyard would do so much better with whites intended for warm climates.

But, this reaction, and some of the feet dragging I was also getting from industry friends in supporting the tasting, made me all the more determined to provide some perpective. Much of the ‘ABC’ backlash, in my experience, comes from exposure to only the big California, oaky butter bombs, like the  popular Rombeur chardonnay. This style has earned the term ‘cougar juice’ – its a  valid style, and if you like it, great. But what a shame to write off one of the most diverse white wines there is, just because of one style.

Chardonnay is like a blank canvas, and responds, expresses well the many options available to a winemaker from fermentation vessels (new oak, neutral oak, concrete, stainless), aging vessels (same), primary and secondary fermentation options, climate, ripeness, clone selection and so many other variables. If you like a steely sauvignon blanc, or a modest Rhone white blend, odds are there are styles of Chardonnay you will like.

If you are one of those “real wine drinkers don’t drink white” or “I don’t drink white” …your journey of exploration and awareness has far to go. Once you truly open up the world to white wine and its hundreds of varieties and styles, globally, and its more subtle nuances, your world is forever changed. Never stop trying, tasting, or exploring.

The Producers I Gathered

At first, not knowing how many  I would get for this tasting, I extended offers to friends and producers I liked. As word got out and the day got closer, last minute requests flooded in, and  I had to say no to some, not because I didn’t like the wines, but I had space constraints, keeping the audience to around 80 people, wanted focus, and most importantly, diversity, by region and style. I had originally planned only six producers.

This is the great lineup I ended up:

You can view a more detailed 2 page spreadsheet that attendees received that have more notes on each wine, here on Google Docs.

Event Feedback – A Huge Success

I have been writing and discussing regularly that wine tasting events need to evolve to new formats.  Based on feedback both from attendees and producers, and we may have hit on one here. Since the event was private and went to mostly friends, most of the crowd was very knowledgeable, with a heavy mix of industry.

Feedback was gushing next day. A  PR wine veteran shared they had been reluctant to come and came away with a completely fresh perspective on California chardonnay. Many echoed similar. Producers expressed they were very happy with the very high level of enthusiasm and sincere interest. The greenhouse was abuzz with energy and excitement. It was one of the most lively tastings I had observed in some time. Most of the  photos are courtesy of Damon Mattson Photography – you can see the whole Facebook album here.

We couldn’t have fit any more people inside. I had expected people to come in waves, but for the most part they clustered around the same time. Space got a bit tight, and noise a bit loud, but neither became unmanageable. To accommodate more people – additional space outside the greenhouse, and/or two different times would be needed. I am examining a number of tweaks for the next event.

The Top Picks By Attendees

With 12 producers and 17 wines, not everyone tasted through them all. (Self included.) There were several surprises for me, and some wines I really liked I  had not had before. My personal favorite of the ones I tried was the Donelan 09 Nancie. Twenty four hours of skin contact gave great aromatics and texture, the wine maker Tyler exercises restraint with oak, and produced and elegant, unique expression of Chardonnay. I was pleasantly surprised with the new 2008 Gloria Ferrer. Their still wines are made for food pairings, and thus their Chardonnay is often more robust, but this year had greater balance than previous vintages, and I thought was an excellent value. The Rivino stainless, no malo chard was also a standout. Unoaked chard can sometimes be a bit too bright and austere, but this had excellent round fruit and weight.

I hope to do a review of all the wines, as I only got to about half, and had little time to really focus. Each producer donated a bottle to that effect.

Below is a chart of the attendee picks. I almost hate to publish top picks, as by design, these were all quite different, and feedback from attendees was that it was hard to pick.

For this ‘contest’ attendees picked their top 3. Not everyone voted, (only

about 35% did) and as mentioned, not everyone tasted through all 17 wines poured. I will streamline consumer feedback for the next event with improved handouts, and perhaps may use simple  scores of 1-10.

The chart is simple: it shows the number of votes each wine received as an attendees’ #1, 2 or 3 vote. As you can see, the votes are very spread out, with all wines receiving some votes.

‘Total Score’ is the unweighted total number of votes. The ‘Winner’ was determined by the ‘Weighted Score;’ 3 points for a #1, 2 Points for #2, 1 point for #1. I also highlighted in gray, the top 3 in each ranking.

The Winners

1. kopriva :  No matter how you slice the data kopriva was the favorite of the day. (I have always been a big fan). This wine is a direct opposite of a California cougar juice. The kopriva team were also brilliant to pair it with Hog Island oysters, who’s briny minerality make it shine. Indeed, in bragging about to kopriva to a friend once, she thought it was decent, but a bit plain for her. We then paired it with some oysters, and she fell in love too.

kopriva garnished 22 percent of the #1 picks, as well as the highest #2. Weighted or unweighted, they had the top overall score – bravo!

2. Donelan 09 Nancie chardonnay:  Their inaugural release, inched out a  #2 choice. The 2nd highest weighted score.

3. Hirsch 09 :  The Hirsch 2009 had the 3rd highest weighted score.

From here the numbers quickly clump, again reflect a wide like factor of all the wines. Pine Ridge, Chamisal, Rivino, and Gloria Ferrer also did well.

What’s Next – Pinot Day, August 18th – Taking Applicants

I am a co-host for Ed Thralls of Wine Tonite for the 2nd Annual #PinotSmackdown. Pinot’s from various regions will be compared and people will vote for their favorite region during this live tasting.

As I did with Chardonnay, I will be seeking a certain profile of Pinot. There has been moderate wine press recently by Jon Bonne’, Jancis Robinson and others, discussing Pinot Noir starting to return to its more elegant form. Over the years Pinot has crept up in color and alcohol, over ripened and over extracted, chasing the new World Palate, and trying to lure less knowledgeable drinkers weened on Cabernet, who think there is something wrong with red wine that is light in color.

I am looking for Pinot that is more reflective of the vintage, terroir, and is balanced, with good acidity. If you are a Pinot producer that fits this, and would like to pour, or have someone represent you and pour, please contact me. If I am not familiar with your wine, I may request a sample prior to accepting. Right now we are focused on OR and CA, but I would love Pinot from any region and importer that fits the targeted intent.

I also intend to lead and organize a Rhone varietal tasting this fall, on behalf of the Rhone Rangers.

Next Event – Venue Tweaks

During the event, I thought there were a few glitches and areas of improvement:

Parking: Thanks to last minute unexpected rain, one side of the road was bad for parking, and despite warnings in the email update, AAA pulled out 4 cars! Winter tastings and parking will be a challenge in the winter I will need to address, as both sides of the road become unparkable in wet season.

Temperature: Luckily we had a normal Russian River summer evening and the weather cooled down. That is normally the case, but a summer heat spike out of the norm, could impact our Pinot day tasting.

Twitter Coverage: All in all things came out well, but there is always room for improvement.  I had a lot to do to pull this off and get my place ready, and I ran out of time on a few things I had planned. Technical glitches prevented me from projecting the Twitterfeed. AT&T works poorly on the farm, so I had extended wifi coverage to reach the Greenhouse, but many people were not aware. One producer shared disappointment, they only saw their brand mentioned once. I was so busy, and I think people were so engaged, social media coverage became secondary to face to face interaction. Personally, I only had time to Tweet twice! There is also the challenge that people know the hashtag, secondary hashtag, and your Twitter handle. I will improve signage and communication next time, but people don’t often read details. More check-in help would also be useful.

Wine Sales: I’d like to explore permits so wineries could take orders. Again, the cost must be low. Wineries don’t want to pay table fees, and consumers don’t want to pay high entry fees; so keeping costs low is a part of this. Even just selling a small amount of wine, helps offset the ROI for the winery for the event. (Time, travel, wine.)

Crowd Breakdown: I’d like to perhaps divide the tasting into two times and groups, and perhaps start with a Trade (Retail, restaurant, distribution) and Media Tasting, and then an everyone else. Part of the problem is that despite all the events I host; I haven’t done a good job creating a trade list – something I will need to work on.

Thoughts and Feedback

I’d love any comments, ideas and suggestions. Also if you were one of the 80 attendees or 12 producers pouring, share your thoughts and comments.

cheers!

Related Articles:

May 26th is International #Chardonnay Day. Here’s how to follow, participate, celebrate

#Chardonnay Day Recap

Wine Tasting Events Must Evolve

2nd Annual Pinot Noir Smackdown – August 18th, 2011

Pinot Noir eyes a new era of restraint

No. 1 No. 2 No. 3 Total Weghted Score
Kopriva 09 Stainless 7 5 3 15 34
Donelan 09 Nancie 4 3 3 10 21
Hirsch 09 Hirsch (Sonoma Coast) 3 4 1 8 18
Pine Ridge 08 Napa 4 2 1 7 17
Chamisal 2010 Central coast 2 2 2 6 12
Jordan 09 RRV 3 2 5 11
Rivino 09 Stainless, Mendocino 2 6 8 10
Gloria Ferrer 08 Carneros 1 2 2 5 9
Windsor Sonoma RRV 2 1 3 8
k. furtado 09 Bien Nacido 1 4 5 7
Rivino 08 Stainless, Mendocino 2 1 3 7
Inspiration 09 RRV 1 1 1 3 6
Hirsch 06 Hirsch (Sonoma Coast) 2 2 6
Chamisal 2008 Estate 2 1 3 5
Old World 08 Sonoma Coast 1 1 2 3
Jordan 08 RRV 2 2 2
Inspiration 08 RRV 2 2 2
Sonoma Coast Vineyards 09 1 1 1
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The North Sonoma Wine Road launches their iPhone App: Review & User Tutorial

I have repeatedly given kudos to the Wine Road organization – in my opinion one of the leaders in Wine AVA marketing, innovation, and social media integration. Despite the economic downturn, their events continue to sell out and show year over year growth, no small feat in these last few years. Beth Costa, the Executive Director embraces tools and media, old and new, giving their 190 members a voice that is consistently heard.

The Vision of the App – More Timely, Updated Information in the Hands of Consumers

Launching an AVA (region based) wine app isn't new.  But bleeding edge isn't always leading edge and early release of an app that has minimal value in today's crowded world of iPhone apps means you risk losing attention after a poor first impression. The Wine Road app is a great example of 'measure twice, cut once.' Premature launch can be the death of a product or concept.

Beth said she is thrilled to finally have this option to tell guests about when they are planning to visit the Wine Road.

Historically we have been known for our printed winery map, but in the past few years more and more travelers rely on their phone for directions and information. We are also seeing more last minute travelers, who don’t have time to order a map in advance. We needed to address the changing needs of our guests and this app  hit it right on the head. The Twitter feed is also a great way for folks to join in the conversation with all of our winery and lodging members and I know customers are going to appreciate our Wine 101.

Are you an Android user? Not to worry, Beth  confirmed that a droid version is in the works!

Getting It Right

This app gets it right in a several key functional themes.

First – much of the reference information is available without Internet access. This is critical as Internet access, via phone or WiFi, is not assured when in many wine regions, and Wine Road has its dead pockets, just like any other.  (Although I can't encourage wineries enough to put WiFi in their tasting rooms.) North Sonoma is full of small, non palace wineries, off the beaten track.

A online only map to your next location,or a directory, isn't a lot of good if you don't have 3G access on your phone. Yes, even Verizon has pockets of spotty coverage.

This core benefit isn't  by accident, the developer is Darwin 3D, the brilliant husband and wife team who have designed apps for Hospice du Rhone and Paso Robles to name a few. The former being the best based event app I have used, the latter representative of a wine region who has a fair number of wineries who also have no 3G coverage.

Sorting and filtering is a another key feature. In the first release you can tell the app to filter by the 5 'regions' in the Wine Road maps. (Russian River, Dry Creek, etc.) Thus you can tell the app to only show you the venues in say, Healdsburg.  In the second phase, due shortly additional criteria will allow for very specific information filtering, such as varietal, picnic areas, tours and more.

Mapping – Online & Offline

When you open the app, it immediately wants to know your geographic location, and requests permission. This allows the app to hone in on wineries close to you. You can of course over ride this, and choose between maps one of two ways: (1) Google based maps or (2) Wine Road Maps (offline) by clicking the 3rd button 'Maps.'

Google Maps

This can actually be used if offline, but it's best functionality is when connected. Like many iPhone apps, you can 'pinch' with two fingers to zoom in and out. In my opinion the best 'wired' mapping integration comes from clicking the second button 'Wineries' then “Distance' and then a list, in order of distance from you, is displayed. You can then click a winery and see all its details. Then you can click on its address, and go to the Google Maps app, which will give you turn by turn driving directions. (Note, do not drive and do this. Its obviously not safe, and if witnessed by the law, comes with a big fine, even at a stop light.)order diflucan

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Key iPhone app direction tip: If the list of wineries by location close to you is wrong, your iPhone needs a map 'nudge'. This happens frequently in my experience with any location based app. To fix it, launch the Mapss app that came  pre-installed, and let it triangulate your location. If THAT needs a nudge, click the tiny arrow in the lower left of screen.

Offline Wine Road Maps

If you touch 'Mapss' then 'Wine Road Maps' you now have the ability to view the same maps as on the Wine Road website and printed map, with the very latest updates and new members. It starts with the overall view, which is good only for reference. Too see wineries, you left and right scroll, and choose between the various sub maps like Dry Creek, Russian River, Healdsburg. You can then pinch to zoom in and out as desired.

Sorting

The last button of the app, Settings, allows you to filter wineries, restaurants and lodging by the 5 Wine Road sub regions. Simple touch which ones you want in or out, and thats all you will see. Very useful to unclutter the app and just focus in on where you are. As mentioned earlier, the next release will expand upon this theme greatly.

Other Key Features

If you start at the home page of the app, you can see a number of features.  Some, (the Buy Tickets, Book a Room, and WineRoadWine101 buttons) launch to external website. Others are completely integrated such as Lodging, which like wineries supports and lists lodging by distance and region; and Concierge, which does the same for restaurants. There is some basic Twitter integration in Phase 1 (you must first authenticate the app) with more coming in Phase 2 and beyond.

Phase Two of the App, and Shiny New Wine Road Website – Coming Soon

Targeted for mid July the Wine Road is gearing up for a major new website update. Substantial effort has gone into redesign to clean up the look of the new site and really focus on the pages that  customers use frequently: events, maps and the videos.

One of the new features will be a “Wine Road on the Road” link where wineries will be able to post all of the special tastings they are participating in throughout the country. If you live in Phoenix and can’t get to here, you can see who will be pouring in YOUR area.

The site will offer an expanded photo gallery, more videos and every member will have links to their Facebook and Twitter accounts. Wine Road also wanted to make it as easy as possible for visitors to share any and all pages with their friends, so they have  included “share this” buttons on most pages, and have updated to Google maps.

Other useful features like lists of new wine releases and an easy to use “book a room” feature with Wine Road lodging members.

iPhone App Phase Two

The new web site release then triggers Phase 2 of the iPhone app which will offer more search features for the

wineries, such as varietals, tours, wineries with picnic areas, and their tasting fee structure. Annual event information streamlined along with their full event calendar and a small version of our photo gallery… so you can see what you are missing, if you’re not here along the Wine Road. New members, events, release etc will be updated in real time -  every time they update the website, it will automatically update the information on the app!

Download the App  – Its Free – and Give it a Whirl

You can search in the iTunes store for Wine Road or simply click here. Don't forget these work on iPad and iPod Touch as well!

I am pleased to have been able to personally help with its progress and criteria. Wine Road Executive Director, Beth Costa reached out to me for input for suggestions and design criteria, knowing my technology background, combined with my social media and marketing integration focus. The Wine Road and its members are dear to my heart, and after using too many Wine apps that didn't hit the mark, I was happy to assist. I think the end result is excellent, and Phase 2, only weeks away, even better.

Please feel free to post comments, questions, and suggestions here.  Thanks for reading – and if you find the article useful, take a second to share it with your Facebook and Twitter friends, cheers!

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(Updated) Want to host the next ‘Sonoma Facebook Meetup’? – Criteria inside

Late last year, I launched the idea of the ‘Sonoma Facebook Wine Meetup’ (ok not the shortest name.) The basic premise was simple; I observed lots of people here in Sonoma County were Facebook friends whom had never met, even though many worked in the industry, or were avid consumers. The idea was to put the ‘social’ in Social Networking. This is NOT a Tweetup; attendees are of course encourage to Tweet, but its a Social Networking event, use of Twitter (or really even Facebook) isn’t required.

I have had a lot of experience hosting events, happy hours, networking events over the years, and this one has evolved as I have learned what has and has not worked.

The events have become well attended, generally averaging 60 people an event, spiking over 80 a few times. It has been very rewarding every event to hear ” So great to finally meet you” and many people have made valuable connections, and in general the majority of the people had not been to the venue before.

Restaurants and bars have turned out to not  always be a good choice, especially if we do the event on a Friday night, as is most popular, as they just don’t have the capacity for the extra patrons, and/or want deposits, guarantees, etc etc. Thus was born the idea of hosting it at wineries, as they can now pour by the glass, and also like the exposure. It is after all a ‘Wine Meetup.’ They aren’t excluded, but they need to fit into the format. Generally we do these Thursday or Friday night, Saturday night would be considered as well. (The Napa group has been using Monday nights, which have worked well for them, but hasn’t been done here to date.)

Who attends? The mix has differed each time, but its generally a mix of industry, consumers, and Social Media/PR people. Its a good cross section of exposure.

Event Guidelines

  • Must have adequate space to accommodate 50-70 people; including a large enough serving area and staff; its a fair amount of people, packed into a 90 minute event.
  • The event space must be able to accommodate the group in inclement weather; rain, cold evenings etc.
  • If we do it at a restaurant or bar, there needs to be a separate area, clearly marked, and ample space, staff to support. No F&B deposits.
  • The intent is for the venue to at a minimum, break even, if not make money via by the glass sales, but the exposure should be desired as well, to make this event worth your investment of time and staff.
  • The location should ideally be in a accessible, central location to draw traffic.
  • A check in desk that funnels people in needs to be created, and manned by the hosting venue. People pay, get name tags, raffle tickets, and then enter. I provide signage.
  • Given people are consuming alcohol at then end of the day, some basic finger food should be offered. I have experimented with personally arranging outside caterers and collecting money at the door, and desire the venue to take responsibility for that.
  • Its expected to charge a basic fee to cover the costs of food; in the past its been $5-10. I’d like the winery to collect that at check-in and pay the food purveyor if possible. Food could be left for general self serve, or be done via portions/per person with a ticket given at check-in.
  • I don’t encourage giving away a lot of wine samples as it reduces wine sales, but in some cases its not a bad idea to have a method for attendees to sample wine. This could be done a variety of ways; your normal tasting fee; a ticket at check in (entry price can be bumped a bit if needed.)
  • I do ask you pour wines in a affordable price range; offer a special for the event; as well as a special for drink there or take home, bottle sales. Goal would be to have at least one offering for ~$5.
  • The event is attended by industry, so please support industry discounting. Some have offered Wine club/Industry for the night to everyone for bottle sales.
  • I will do  Social Media promotion, but its helpful and desirable if the Venue supports the event on Facebook, Twitter, newsletter etc.
  • A sign in sheet of attendees is created and shared with the venue.
  • Pictures and a Post Blog article on SimpleHedonisms.com will be done for follow-up visibility on the event.
  • I ask you don’t schedule another event at the same time with out first discussing, permission.
  • The Facebook event invite is created by me via the Fan page, and then you will also be made a admin, so that you can invite, promote etc.
  • Have fun!

I am working to move these around the county, to different AVAs. These events thrive on participation of the local wineries, so we host one there, and you’d like more, please try and support and promote!  Napa is not being ignored; Andrew Healy recently started a Napa Chapter, whose  meetups have been very successful.

Drop me an email (see contact info) if you’d like to be considered for a host. Our next two are at Deerfield Ranch Winery in Glen Ellen Aug 26th 5-7pm (or later) and at Harvest Moon Winery Sept 23rd in the Russian River Valley.

cheers!

William

2010 Wine Bloggers Awards – Nominations Are Open

If you subscribe to wine blogs, invariably you are starting to see the stream of posts about the 2010 Wine Blog Awards.

It’s hard to believe only  6 months ago I launched Simple Hedonisms. Its been incredibly rewarding to watch traffic grow. March traffic doubled with 2000 readers and 180,000 hits. That’s peanuts compared to guys like Vinography and Fermentation, but the difference in Simple Hedonisms is that the audience is highly localized, by design,  First to Sonoma, then the Bay Area, and California. Eventually I will focus on growing National Readership, but that can’t really occur until I have the proper time to dedicate, and am not traveling 4 days a week working  12+ hour days. Besides, the main goal of Simple Hedonisms was to “connect passionate consumers to dedicated Artisans” and that’s much easier to do initially on a smaller scale.

For those of you not local, it isn’t just the blog, its the involvement and participation in the local wine industry that I unfortunately rarely write about, that I spend a lot of rewarding time doing. Whether it’s organizing the monthly Facebook Wine Meetups for 60+ people, helping a winery or an association promote an event, or just helping spread the word and help people make connections. I have been blessed to meet and work with many amazing people and organizations, and more importantly, be able to call them friend.

That’s a typical William verbose way of saying its a pure Labor of Love. And to that extent, almost all wine blogs are, since most generate little/no income. (Mine runs in the red.) I’d ask that Blog readers take the time to nominate, and then vote for, blogs that you read. Would I be honored if it was Simple Hedonisms? Of course. But I am not about to embark on the heavy self promoting campaigns that will follow, as its not my style, and your readership is my true reward. I do look forward to attending this years Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla and meeting many of my fellow bloggers in person.

The Categories for Nomination are below with a link; each has a description of the award in more detail:

Nominate Now: Best Overall Wine Blog

Nominate Now: Best New Wine Blog

Nominate Now: Best Writing On a Wine Blog

Nominate Now: Best Winery Blog

Nominate Now: Best Single Subject Wine Blog

Nominate Now: Best Wine Reviews on a Wine Blog

Nominate Now: Best Industry/Business Wine Blog

Nominate Now: Best Wine Blog Graphics, Photography, & Presentation

Thanks for reading, nominating, and voting. Cheers!

Article 2 of 4: Wine Road Barrel Tasting & Social Media – Optimizing Your Event

I generally try to keep my articles focused on Consumers, and not tie in the occasional Social Media, Marketing consulting that I do. However given that the blog does have many Winery readers, I thought I’d share a small excerpt from a recent presentation.

I have a more detailed presentation on the relevance of Social Media, branding, and consumer interaction. I’ll Cliff Note it here to say: if you aren’t actively communicating with consumers via Social Media ask yourself why. Facebook has 400 million users, who spend an average of an hour a day, 4+ times a week, with an average 130 friends each.  Numerous case studies show the positive financial benefit, and increased customer loyalty via a well run Fan page.

The last Wine Road event; Winter Wineland had many success stories, attributed to heightened consumer awareness, via Social Media. It was my personal experience from polling wineries: those active in Social Media achieved positive sales and growth attendance over the previous year.  Catch the wave!

Wine Road Barrel Tasting is widely attended both by the local Bay area, as well as people who fly in from all over the US, many on a ‘stock up’ buying trip. Here are some suggestions to help increase ‘buzz’, traffic, and perception.

Pre-Event:

  • Facebook: Promote your event on Facebook with an ‘Event’ and via Status Updates. Too many businesses overlook the value of the Facebook event feature: Consumers can RVSP to an event; Share it on their Wall, or even Export it right to their Smartphone calendar. (This is how many events get on my Blog Calendar.)
  • Twitter: If you are only using Twitter on a web browser, you are missing 90% of its intrinsic value. Use the Tweetdeck application to scan for attendees via hashtags and key words #barreltasting, #sonoma, #drycreekvalley etc. This is fast and easy, and websites like Mashable offer tips on how.
  • Put event details, info on your website, email your wine club members, and your consumer Newsletter lists, since they Opted in to receive email.
  • Offer sales promotions on excess inventory for larger purchases, and additional incentives for new Wine Club members.
  • Offer a 4Square Promo for checking in: Visit Discounts, Event drawings, etc

General Tips (not Social Media related)

  • Have knowledgeable staff on hand, and train them how to pick out the serious wine enthusiast from the party-mongers.
  • Have a Pep talk with staff, set expectations. The tasting room experience defines the impression of each visitor, what they buy, if they join the wine club, or will ever return. Yes, barrel tasting gets crazy, but customer service must remain a top focus. At least if you hope to sell some wine.
  • Get some volunteers to help with parking guidance, greeting, tracking visitors.

During Event

  • Social Networking is viral; its success is based on others spreading ‘your’ words, posts. Make it easy for them.
  • Many areas in Dry Creek, others have poor cell coverage. Most smartphones can use WiFi when cell coverage is poor. Consider spending $50-$100 at Best Buy and install second basic WiFi router that’s open for attendee.  You can share the same broadband Internet connection, but do  keep it separate and secure from your work network. Get your local IT person, or Geek Squad to help, it’s not hard.
  • Get a PC or Laptop and set up a customer Social Media Station; encourage them use Facebook and Twitter and share their experience. You can also create a sign-up page for mailing lists.
  • Have an employee (or you) occasionally post on Facebook and Twitter; pics, fun comments. The occasional promotional post is ok, but your primary goal is interactivity and audience participation.
  • Track attendees, sales, wine poured, new Wine Club Members: create an ROI. Also track post event, correlated DTC transactions. How can you measure the benefits of marketing initiatives if you don’t keep track?
  • Offer sales incentives on inventory, Wine Club: upsell.
  • Promote but don’t hard sell the Wine Club. People should hear about it, but don’t be overly aggressive, it’s a turn-off.
  • Get visitors to sign up for email updates

Use as many consumer touch points as you can!

It will be busy, but have fun, and more importantly make sure you visitors will have fun. Remember, for the visiting consumer, it’s often as much about the personal experience as the wine, so do the best you can to ensure visitors have a positive experience, so they will buy wine, tell friends, and come back!

Hope that was helpful; questions, comments always welcome.

Cheers!

Simple Hedonisms Wine Blog Launches New Facebook Fan Page – Fan us up and Spread the Word

Up until now I have been using my personal Facebook site for Simple Hedonisms. I will still of course maintain that and do some wine updates there, but I recognized there may be people who want to follow and interact with the blog and not me per se. Also technically now that the blog is gaining momentum and do advertising and writing for events like Wine Road Barrel Tasting, The Pinot Noir Summit, The Hospice du Rhone, and more, technically its (becoming) a small business, and should have a Fan site. (I am going to keep just one Twitter account however.)

This blog is intended for, and will remain mostly written to consumers; however as I do more and more work and consulting on Social Media and Marketing, I will publish an occasional piece on that as well, given Simple Hedonisms readers are winery’s in addition to consumers.

Lots of great new articles, events, contests, and promotions to come, as Simple Hedonisms continues its goal to connect consumers to passionate Artisans.

Cheers!

William

www.facebook.com/simplehedonisms

The Sonoma Facebook Wine Meetup: Friday Feb. 19th in Healdsburg

Since a few of my wine friends on Twitter don’t have a Facebook account, I promised a blog article about this week’s next Sonoma Facebook Wine Meetup. There is also a Facebook FAN Page, also setup for this monthly event. I have not been promoting it to a wide audience, as its intended for locals, who wish to attend, and don’t mind email updates.

The Fan page is located here. I have not yet started a Simple Hedonisms Fan page yet, when I do THEN we can promote the heck out of it! :) The invite for the event is on the Events tab, or here.

If you haven’t attended one of these, I started them last fall, when I realized how many local people hadn’t met people they interact with daily on Facebook, and decided to put the Social, into Social Media. It’s taken off like wildfire, so much so many venues can’t take us, as we expect 60+ people again.

Who attends: wine consumers, winery owners, social media people, chefs, cheesemakers, restaurant owners.

We have had wineries such as Mounts, Acorn, Michel-Schlumberger, Ridge, Kokomo, Eric Ross (Kenwood), Ketchum, Trione, Amista, Kelley Young, White Oak, Windsor Vineyard, and more, attend.

I am experimenting with a new format this time, and hosting it at a winery. Longboard Vineyards, in Healdsburg has offered their tasting room, and to pour by the glass. (Soft drinks as well.) There is an at the door charge of $5 (please bring cash) to cover appetizers, provided by World Famous Hamburger Ranch and Pasta Farm , who has done events for Longboard before, with very positive feedback.

There had been some concern expressed before about holding it a winery, and not ‘neutral’ ground; I certainly hope, that in the events spirit of networking and friendship, that no-one would skip because of this.

RSVPs are already up to 47! I may have to cap it off around 60, I am headed over to Longboard for a second look, to see what the max will be.

There will be door prizes; restaurants or other venues that wish to donate physical items, can bring an item, and you will make the drawing, and present your item. The Drawing starts at 630, and you must be present to win, so don’t be too late!

What: Sonoma Facebook Wine Meetup – putting “Social” in Social Media

Where: 5 Fitch Street, Healdsburg, CA 95448  Phone: (707) 433 3473

When: This Friday night, Feb 19th, from 530-7pm. (feel free to start early.)

Cost: $5 cash for food, plus wine, soft drinks by the glass.

See you then!

Wine Country Events – Dec 10-13

Sorry no mid week article yet on last weeks events. I couldn’t cajole my co-editor Deb to write one, and for those of you who follow my adventures on Facebook, you know its been a wild week for my on business travel through the blizzards and winds of the MidWest, so writing was a bit of a challenge! truck

The number of weekend events is slowly starting to slow down. (I actually have nothing for Saturday Dec 19th yet!) I got quite a few requests last week for how to add events, and created a new Contact Info Tab.

This weekend though we still have a fair amount going on, and there are still quite a few winery Open Houses and misc. events throughout Napa, Sonoma Valleys. (I’d love to get more info out of Mendocino County.)

Thursday Dec 10th

Windsor Wine Walk

A little plug for my own town.

On Thursday December 10th join Old Downtown Windsor merchants on a Winter Wine Walk to benefit the Windsor Kiwanis & the Windsor Service Alliance’s Holiday Toy & Food Programs! 100% of ticket sales will go directly to the 2 charities! In addition to helping a great cause you will receive a commemorative wine glass to… enjoy wine pourings from 12 different wineries along with food pairings! At the end of the night turn your ticket in for a chance to win a gift basket full of goodies from Old Downtown Businesses! A limited number of tickets will be sold and available by pre-sale only! TICKETS: $25
E-mail Dennis at Rickshaw Rudy’s for ticket purchasing information: rickshawrudys@yahoo.com

Tickets are also available to purchase at: Atrellis Flower Shop – 707-837-8080, Images – 707-837-0160

Saturday Dec 12

Crab Feed at Fritz Winery, Cloverdale 12noon-4pm

fritzI LOVE dungeness crab, so couldn’t resist this.

One of the most perfect food/wine pairings is fresh Dungeness Crab from Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco Sourdough Bread and Fritz Russian River Chardonnay…okay, okay…a little drawn butter never hurt anyone! Come by Fritz and celebrate this annual bounty. Please RSVP to Julie at 707-894-3389 or julie@fritzwinery.com

FREE for wine club members, $20 guest tasting fee includes wine, crab and all the fixin’s.

Holiday Party at the Moon! (Harvest Moon) 2-5pm

This will be my first visit to Harvest Moon – excited to check it out, as a wine friend raves about it.tastingroom002

Cost: $15 for non-members and free for wine club members.
Contact: Erin Stewart
Email: erin@harvestmoonwinery.com
Phone: (707) 573-8711

Details: Join us on Saturday, December 12th,for a afternoon of warm home-made food and great wines. We will also have a dessert bar of treats paired with our sweeties direct from the tank; the ’09 Late Harvest Zinfandel and Dessert “Ice-Style” Gewurztraminer! Come join us for a festive time in the wine country, while listening to live local musicians. Taste fresh ’09 vintages straight from the tank to see how this wonderful year turned out.

Sunday Dec 13th

Say Cheese: Pairing wine and cheese with Topel Winery 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM

Back by popular demand, Doralice Handal, owner of The Cheese Shop in Healdsburg, will repeat her “Say Cheese” class from last year, offering tips on how to successfully pair various types of cheese with different wines from Topel Winery. (I love their Birdsong white blend.)

Topel Winery Tasting Room, 125 Matheson Street, Healdsburg, CA 95448 ph. 707-433-4116

Rutherford – Wines That Give Back

Man I wish I wasn’t flying to Portland Sunday night, hate to miss this.

The next stop in the Appellation Series from Small Lots, Big Wines is not an appellation at all. This tour celebrates wines that give back.  Each of the wineries who will be pouring at this event either give a portion or all of their profits back to charity.  In addition to supporting charities for kids, the homeless, and to promote literacy, some wineries will be pouring to support the Rutherford Grange. This is a great venue for you to go Christmas shopping.  What better gift is there to give then one that gives twice?

In addition to great wineries such as Clark-Claudon, Humanitas, Cleavage Creek, and Ehlers, we’ll also feature local Sonoma cheeses, art on sale, and  12 year old Isaac Tyner playing guitar to raise money for Camp Okizu, a camp for kids with cancer and their families. There will be raffles to raise additional funds for the Grange as well.

The cost is $15 per person.  $5 of every ticket sale goes back to the Grange.   To learn more about the Grange please go to  www.rutherfordgrange.com. Please RSVP or prepay ASAP so that we can ensure we have enough cheese and wine.

For more info or any questions call 707-254-5152 or email info@smalllotsbigwines.com

winehat

That’s the wrap-up. If I get any missed events sent to me will add them back in. Enjoy your Festive weekend, and don’t forget as you shop for gifts to buy Local!

cheers!

p.s. Next Friday I am hosting my next Facebook Wine Meetup, as we put the “social’ in Social Media. We expect at least 20-30 people ranging from avid consumers, to several small winery owners. Hope to see and meet many of you!

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